A Promise To Fulfill

A typical passenger call in airports would be:

Final call to all passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 116 bound to Kuala Lumpur. Please proceed to Gate … for immediate boarding.

After all the scans and checks then you’ll be inside your gate:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Singapore Airlines flight SQ 116 to Kuala Lumpur is now ready for boarding. Inviting all passengers with infants please board the aircraft. Passengers seated at row 45 – 60 please board the aircraft. First class and business class passengers please board the aircraft at your convenience.

Once inside the aircraft and while waiting for the aircraft to take off, here’s what I normally do:

  • Reading magazines or;
  • Reading newspapers or;
  • Finalizing my Powerpoint slides for client meetings or;
  • Reading textbooks to catchup with my studies or;
  • Immediately taking my nap as I didn’t have enough sleep or;
  • Checking out what’s new with the airline’s shopping magazine or;
  • Listening to my iPod or;
  • Just simply quiet and remember the promise I made with my dad a decade ago.

The first time I have encountered the challenges of life was during my high school or secondary studies. My family had a terrible financial downturn during 1990s that they have decided to transferred my studies to our native province. I grew up in the city and relocating to my province was an adjustment. My dad had a sickness that time and my sister in Hong Kong who is our breadwinner cannot support us anymore. My mother stayed with the seventh sibling while me and my dad ventured back to our hometown province.

Libagon, our hometown is located in Southern Leyte Philippines. It belongs to the Visayas island and is overlooking the famous Limasawa island where historically known to be the center of trades of Chinese and Arabs and is also famous and notably known as the site where the First Mass in the Philippines was held due to Ferdinand Magellan’s stay in the island.

Libagon is a beautiful place. On the left side of our town are the mountain ranges and on the right side would be the sea. Since we are very near the sea, we always celebrate the famous fiesta of San Juan where everyone will go to the sea and swim.

Living in the province is fun. Life is simple. No complications, fresh air, fresh food, fruits and vegetables. Neighbors knew each other. And during 1990s, almost everything is traditional. When we go attend the Catholic mass, we still have to wear our veils and few Catholic masses were delivered in Latin. Everyday at 6PM, people still acknowledged, listen, and recites the Oracion Seis (the Six o’clock prayer). We still have to study Spanish language as part of our curriculum. We don’t have washing machines so when we need to do laundry we go to rivers and wash our clothes. We don’t have electric ovens so when we cook our dishes we have to go at foot of the mountains to look for dry woods or sometimes coal which we used for cooking.

I was very active in school both academics (Oratorical contest, Declamations contest, School plays, etc) and extra curricular activities like being a cheer leader, a majorette, volleyball, softball.

My parents especially my dad was very strict. He still implements the Spanish disciplinary ways. He wants me to become Valedictorian when I graduated as it is the only way I can step to College or University due to scholarship. Otherwise, it will be tough for me to continue my education. Everyday my dad’s curfew for me would be 4PM. Well it is kinda early because I have to clean our house vicinity of dry leaves, have to water the plants, feed the chickens, prepare and cook the rice. In order to survive the everyday expenses, my dad is doing radio and electrical repairs. Since life is simple and everything is quite cheap in the rural areas, there’s nothing much to look forward to. We don’t have television either. After dinner and after cleaning the dishes and the kitchen, my dad usually goes out and have chat with his friends while I stay at home and study. If I am late from my dad’s curfew, well, it is not a pretty scene. Words like ‘Sirvenguenza!’, ‘Cholera!’ will be heard from everywhere in the house. As young as a teen, I already know those words are equivalent to Spanish curses.

A tragedy happened to our neighboring island of Ormoc in the 1990s gave us setbacks. A big tidal wave in Ormoc city killed more than 10,000 people whose body were wiped unto the sea. Because of that, we were not able to eat anything from the sea for months. The tragedy followed by several typhoons denied us of electricity and rice fields were washed out as well. We ended up relying heavily on root crops. My stomach sometimes find it hard to digest eating sweet potato from breakfast until dinner especially when this is the food you have been eating for months. And then there were earthquakes where we cannot sit inside the classroom but rather have our lectures under the trees within the school vicinities.

Well, those are mother nature’s ways of doing which is beyond anyone’s control.

As I was fearful of my dad and also to make him happy, I did make it and become Valedictorian of my class in high school. Before my graduation, I believe my father had enough of our living condition in the province. He decided to sell a portion of our land and use the money for my medication and travel back to our place in the city. Well my dad wants to travel and sit inside an aircraft. He said it is the only means of transportation he hasn’t experience. Traveling through planes are quite simple these days but not during the 1990s. The selling of the land created few commotions in the family. Few family members disapproved my dad’s decision. They didn’t know that my dad only wants to fulfill his dream of riding on an airplane. When my dad bought our Philippine Airlines tickets, he was very happy. He doesn’t care of what’s going to happen when we reached our destination, he just wanted to enjoy that one hour aircraft ride from Tacloban Airport to Manila domestic airport. When I was sitting with my dad in the aircraft, I was puzzled with my dad’s words:

My Dad: I finally fulfilled my dream of riding an airplane.

I just smiled.

My Dad: Once I’m gone, don’t forget to take care of your mother.

Me: Dad, it is not a good joke.

My Dad: Who’s joking?

He smiled.

My Dad: After you become successful, I want you to take your mother to ride an airplane and travel outside our country. I cannot do it for her anymore.

Me: Dad, don’t say that. I have just turned 16. What makes you think I am going to be successful?

My Dad: Because I’ll make sure you will be.

The Flight. Picture taken at one of my travels from Singapore to KL. November 2010.

Less than 2 years after that incident, my father passed away of cancer at the age of 60. He died in my arms. My father didn’t witness my 18th birthday and my University graduation. Surely he is happy looking at me from above.

Next year, I will be touring my mum around Asia together with my brother, our seventh sibling. If there’s one wish I have at the moment, that is for my mother’s health to be stable and good. So that next year she will be ready for our adventure.

That moment with my dad in the aircraft was puzzling but I didn’t mind it when I was in my younger years. But when I got to understand life that’s when it all made sense.

I have a lot of reasons to say ‘Thanks!’ to the Big Guy up there. And ofcourse to my dad.

Looking at the past, I have no idea how I made it here to what I am right now. I’m living my life one day at a time. All I know and have never forgotten is to say the word ‘Thank you…’

Life’s but a journey. It has all the kind of roads. It’s all about choices and making decisions. We will always get tired and we always have the option to rest for a while and enjoy the view.

My father and I have the same birthday, that is September 1st.

My mother was born in February 14, 1933. She is forever my Valentina.

Thanks to my very good friend Geraldine Caballero for sharing this song.

Til next time. Au revoir.

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